I’m just wondering if a divorce decree obtained by a former Filipino citizen against his Filipino spouse will be recognized in the Philippines. Does this apply only to marriages between Filipino citizens and foreigners? Please enlighten me. Thanks.
Dear Mr. Co,
There is no law allowing divorce in the Philippines. It is yet to be enacted. Thus, a divorce decree obtained abroad dissolving the marriage between Filipino citizens shall not be recognized in the Philippines.
But in cases of mixed marriages involving a Filipino citizen and a foreigner, a divorce decree obtained by the latter enabling him/her to remarry in accordance with their law shall be recognized in the Philippines and shall also make the Filipino citizen eligible to remarry. This is according to the 2nd paragraph of Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which states:
“ART. 26. xxx
Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine law.”
The literal interpretation of the aforesaid provision of the law suggests that the parties to the marriage must only be between a Filipino and a foreigner. Following then this line of interpretation, it does not cover scenarios where the marriage is between Filipino citizens, but later on one of them became a citizen of another country and obtained a divorce decree. But to give life to the meaning, legislative intent and purpose of the law, the Supreme Court in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Cipriano Orbecido III (G.R. No. 154380, October 5, 2005) held:
“Thus, taking into consideration the legislative intent and applying the rule of reason, we hold that Paragraph 2 of Article 26 should be interpreted to include cases involving parties who, at the time of the celebration of the marriage were Filipino citizens, but later on, one of them becomes naturalized as a foreign citizen and obtains a divorce decree. The Filipino spouse should likewise be allowed to remarry as if the other party were a foreigner at the time of the solemnization of the marriage. To rule otherwise would be to sanction absurdity and injustice. Where the interpretation of a statute according to its exact and literal import would lead to mischievous results or contravene the clear purpose of the legislature, it should be construed according to its spirit and reason, disregarding as far as necessary the letter of the law. A statute may therefore be extended to cases not within the literal meaning of its terms, so long as they come within its spirit or
intent.http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2005/oct2005/gr_154380_2005.html – fnt12
In view of the foregoing, we state the twin elements for the application of Paragraph 2 of Article 26 as follows:
1. There is a valid marriage that has been celebrated between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner; and
2. A valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry.
The reckoning point is not the citizenship of the parties at the time of the celebration of the marriage, but their citizenship at the time a valid divorce is obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating the latter to remarry.”
Based on the above decision of the Supreme Court, divorce dissolving marriages between Filipino citizens, where one of them subsequently became naturalized citizen of another country and a divorce decree was obtained by the latter, shall be recognized in the Philippines.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org